What is Health Systems Research?

As systems researchers, Altarum Institute begins with the understanding that there is no single health care “system.” Health and health care depend on a complex fabric of systems that are constantly interacting and shaping human health.

Our Systems Change Model helps us see the broader environment in which these systems operate and in which problems arise. This methodology identifies critical system interactions and focuses on the root causes that can lead a system to fail. Through our systems research and the Systems Change Model, we help you visualize the whole picture – ensuring a more comprehensive and sustainable solution to your problem.

Systems research is the work that we do to help our clients understand and solve the root problems that cause the health care delivery and financing systems that they oversee to become inefficient, ineffective or unsustainable. Altarum Institute’s approach to understanding and solving the systems problems facing our clients is guided by the Altarum Systems Change Model, which has five elements:

Altarum's System's Research Methodology

Define the Need

The key element when employing the Altarum Systems Change Model is always, first and foremost, to gain an objective and comprehensive assessment of the problem that needs to be solved or the opportunity that needs to be seized.

What is the current state? Where do we want to be?

Step Back

With the problem or opportunity clearly understood, we step back to look at the environment in which the system operates and to view the system from multiple perspectives and disciplines.

What are the boundaries on the system? Who are the stakeholders in the system? How do they view the problem or envision a solution?

Understand Relationships

Systems are built upon relationships, so understanding a system means understanding the relationships among components within it.

How do the different elements of the system interact? How have these interactions changed over time, and with what result?

Dig Deeper

Immediate data is often insufficient in diagnosing the root cause of system problems or opportunities. Different mental models often lead stakeholders to see problems and solutions in different ways.

Move Forward

After careful analysis and modeling of change scenarios, we are prepared to plan and implement changes – targeting those changes where they can have the greatest impact on overall system performance. Systems change and maintain stability based on feedback, so we carefully measure outcomes to ensure continuous improvement in the system and to promote learning within the organization that “hosts” the system.

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